Entries Tagged 'Random thoughts' ↓

Marion and her salamanders…

Marion lives across the street from me . Her house sits on a slightly sloped lot and is painted brown and very tidy. Nothing out of place inside or out. The outside is clipped and cropped within an inch of its life, she mentioned that she doesn’t like or want anything to ever touch the house. The inside is dusted and dull and smells of the old family photos that fill the walls or sit in groups on top of the outdated furniture. It appears that no dust, dirt or sunlight is allowed to intrude. Marion is what I would colloquially call a spinster. Late 60′s or early 70′s in age who abandoned her career to care for her mother over twenty years ago. Marion’s mother passed away about a year ago and Marion has lived there on her own since then. I had always been cordial to her and her mother and when her mother passed I made the obvious gesture that most neighbors do, “I’m so sorry for your loss…if there is anything you need please let me know”.

It wasn’t more than a week after Marion’s mother passed that I got the first phone call. “Hello Michael, this is Marion….from across the street….” . (She has this very tepid voice as if she only has the strength for this last call) I tried to make small talk and offer my condolences and once again reiterate that I would be happy to run errands or go to the store if needed. Well that was why she was calling. She knew I went to Safeway most days and had a list she was hoping I could pick up on my next trip.  Marion also asked if I could please get her mail for her. (her mailbox is at the bottom of her driveway) I said I would be happy to and I would be right over to get the list.

Oh my.  I have never encountered anyone more specific in my life. She had color swatches to match the bananas she wanted. Copies of previous UPC codes from products that were unsatisfactory. The name of the last store manager she dealt with when she had to return a cup of yogurt. Specific expiration dates that would be acceptable for her half gallon of non-fat, two percent, non-lactose semi-milk-like liquid. Marion handed me 20 dollars and a pill bottle filled with change and asked that I make sure to use as much of the change as possible. I went to the store and returned thinking I had followed the instructions to Marion’s specifications but of course I had erred. This was not a good harbinger of how my good intentions were to be tested and strained. The phone calls started coming almost daily, “Hello Michael…this is Marion….from across the street…”. I loved how she would always identify which Marion was calling, the one from across the street, as if I receive calls from multiple Marion’s. I consider myself so lucky that I find humor and pathos in people like Marion and her eccentricities, otherwise her impositions would definitely become tedious and annoying. I would share my daily shopping failures with my family and how I actually had to return the last 3 bananas because they weren’t green enough. Not over ripe, but not under ripe enough. I guess I was getting a bit impatient as my family started to make suggestions on how to wean Marion off the daily trough of my generosity. I just wasn’t sure I had the heart to do that but Marion must have sensed it as her shopping request soon stopped and the calls I would receive were only concerning her mail. “Hi Michael….this is Marion…from across the street…did I get any mail today?”. My son would plead with me to shout into the phone, “I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU CHECK?”. He didn’t understand how she was not immobile, she drove and evidently now did her own shopping but was still incapable of walking to the bottom of her driveway to retrieve her mail. I would tell her I would go check right away and she would ask me to just leave it on the bench next to her front door.

When the winter season came and we finally started getting some rainy days I got one of my strangest calls yet. “Hello Michael….this is Marion…from across the street…when you pick up my mail today could you please check under my green garbage can that is at the top of the driveway. There is some big lizard or something underneath it.” Oh great I thought, now she is starting to hallucinate. So I walked over, grabbed her mail and walked up her driveway to where the green garbage can was sitting. It is sitting in the middle of a large blacktop section of her driveway, with at least eight feet of blacktop in all directions. At the sides of the driveway are beds of rock. I roll back the garbage can and there sat a large spotted salamander. Now where this salamander came from and how he ventured across this desolate terrain to end up under this garbage can was quite intriguing I thought. Almost as intriguing as how Marion knew it was there? Just then I heard someone tapping on a window and I looked up and there is a small window in Marion’s laundry room that is over the stairs leading up to the house and Marion’s face is peering down. “What is it?”, she shouts through the closed window. “It is a salamander”, I excitedly reply. I went on to explain that they are harmless and fairly rare these days and she should consider herself lucky to have one in her yard. “Oh, get it out of here, I can’t stand anything that crawls near my house.” I explained that we didn’t have to kill it to get rid of it, I could simply take it over to my back yard, as I would love to have a resident salamander. Marion was quite grateful and asked that I diligently check under her garbage can any time it rains to make sure no more of the creatures stalk her. I told her I would and for the next few days I did but no more salamanders appeared.

A few more days passed and I got another frantic call. “Hi Michael…this is Marion…from across the street, could you come right over, I think there is a bunch of them under the garbage can.” I explained that I had been checking and really doubted there were more but I would check. I roll back the can and there are two large salamanders and a baby. A whole family had moved in this time. I was amazed they were there and at the fact that somehow Marion knows when they are there. I gathered up all three and took them over to my backyard and put them back by my wood pile where it is dark and damp. In the next couple of weeks I retrieved two more singles from under the green bin bringing the total to six salamanders that have been compelled to crawl from somewhere to take up residence under a garbage can on a blacktop driveway. I tried to identify the type of salamander and I believe they are Arboreal salamanders, (if interested, http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/a.lugubris.html ) and I hope they like their new home.

The weather is warming and it looks like the rains may be over for the season so I don’t know if I will find anymore but I will tell you this, first rain of next winter I will make sure to check under Marion’s garbage can for anymore salamanders looking to relocate to the other side of the street.

a mysterious death of a friend

(I started this blog shortly after this happened but only got through the first paragraph before putting it aside until six months later. This is my best recollection of a few very strange sad days last summer.)

Thursday July 15th, 2010, I had started my day as I do most, wait for my wife Amy to start the water and then come downstairs and make a cup of coffee. My wife Amy had an appointment in San Francisco at 11:00 am, which is about an hour and a half away from where we live and I had selfishly talked my way out of driving her. I had my Chronicle to read and was hoping to catch the tide correctly and get in a body surfing session. And of course any gaps in my day could be filled with replays of the British Open on ESPN. I took my first look at the beach around 9:30. I was way off on the tide and  bought a 2nd cup of coffee and drove home. When I got in the house there was a message on our answering machine. I worried it might be Amy as she was unsure of finding her way in San Francisco. I hit the button on the machine and was stunned by the message, “Hi this is Kim, Damien’s roommate and Damien is missing. I called his ex-wife and she contacted a psychic who said she thinks he might be in the gully behind our house, so I was wondering if you could help Kenny look behind our house. You know Kenny had a stroke so I was hoping you could help. Could you please give me a call at 222-2324″ I called Kim back and she was at work. She proceeded to give a very strange rambling story about coming home from work, speaking with Damian who said he wasn’t feeling well and was going to bed early, something about being in a small car accident earlier and then thought she heard him leave the condo out the back way in the middle of the night. In the morning her concern escalated when she noticed his bed hadn’t been slept in and his bathrobe, (the last thing she saw him wearing) was on his bed.

This is definitely not how I thought this day would go.

I quickly got dressed and drove over to Ken’s condo complex. I parked and started walking towards the back of the complex where the gully is. (Basically, a ravine lined with eucalyptus trees that works as a seasonal creek for rain run off. Untended and a jumble of eucalyptus litter.) Anyway, I immediately saw Ken walking towards me and he had obviously already been back there looking around. Ken confirmed he had stomped around behind the complex but saw no sign of anything. He said with the thick underbrush and tree droppings it would be fairly obvious if someone had stumbled through the night before. I asked for his take on the situation and he said he was working on the disadvantage of only having Kim’s story to go on. Kim is an old friend and roommate who tends to go off on jags fairly regularly. So her stories do not always maintain the sober clarity that would be useful in the actual situation we were dealing with, a friend who’s gone missing. But still it was all we had to go on so Ken and I reviewed what he knew, (or thought he knew) so far.  The only additional information I hadn’t heard is that Kim had found Damien’s car keys and cell phone is his room when she went in to check on him in the morning. Kim had to get to work and that is why Ken and I were recruited to see what we could figure out. Unfortunately, nothing. It really was strange if it happened as Kim remembered and we were now left with nothing to follow up on. We didn’t know the friend he supposedly met for lunch, we didn’t know who he might have gotten a ride home from and we certainly couldn’t call him as his cell phone was in his room. Ken assured me that there was nothing I could do to help at the moment but promised to keep me in the loop. Kim evidently had already filed a missing person’s report with the Sheriff’s office but there isn’t much they do as he hadn’t been missing that long.

The next day Ken calls and says that the Sheriff’s showed up to talk to Kim first thing in the morning as they had found Damien’s car on a side road in the old Fort Ord property. The fire department had responded to a vehicle fire and found his car completely ablaze. There still had been no information on Damien but the story was definitely getting stranger by the day. The torched car was quickly matched to Damien and prompted a heightened interest from the Sheriff’s department in his disappearance. They interviewed Kim and Ken and said they would keep them informed on any updates.

Ken called me early the next day. His voice was quivering and I immediately braced for bad news. They had found Damien’s body washed up on the beach a few miles from where they had found his car. He was naked but with no obvious signs of trauma. Ken said the police may need them to drive down to identify the body and wondered if I might be able to drive him and Kim. I assured him I was available day or night for anything they needed, just call. Ken called later to say the police decided they didn’t need to drive down but would let them know what the next step in this process was.

Now I personally never had any contact with any of the law enforcement personal involved in this investigation but at this point, there seemed to be more questions than answers regarding Damien’s death and from what I was hearing from Ken, not much concern on the part of the Sheriff’s department in answering any of them.

After a few days the Sheriff’s department told Kim and Ken they were going to list Damien’s death as an accidental drowning. As bizarre a story as you will ever run across and that is what they were going with, accidental drowning. Did his car accidentally combust? Did he accidentally forget to get dressed when he left the house the night before without his phone or car keys and then decide to go for a midnight swim in the Monterey Bay?  There was also some speculation that Damien may have taken his own life. It turns out his mother committed suicide but there was certainly nothing apparent in his behavior that would indicate he was that troubled. The saddest part of this whole situation, besides losing a warm, funny, intelligent friend, is that those that loved him, (and there were many as evidenced at his memorial) is that the question as to what really happened to our friend on his last day will never be known.

volunteer veggies

Chapter 1 – Battle for the Ginger

A few weeks back I was planning a simple clean up on a bed of ginger plants in our backyard. They weren’t looking very healthy and as they had finally produced three little blooms after 20 years I thought maybe some thinning and attention might encourage more blooms. (In my opinion a yellow ginger bloom is in the top 10 of great smells) Anyway as I started in on the project I was aware that at the base of the ginger was an undergrowth of spider plants, what I hadn’t realized is; by allowing these innocuous looking plants to fill in around and under the ginger is that their root system is like something out of a low budget alien movie. The root system had produced so many tubers  that had wrapped around all the ginger roots so that there wasn’t even much soil left, I’m not sure what they did with the dirt but basically I had a bed of roots and tubers. Now my enjoyable afternoon yard chore had become a battle to save the ginger from the evil spider plants and my clippers had been replaced by a shovel and a 6 foot long, 25 pound pry bar. As I was trying to save all my ginger plants I wasn’t just digging and tossing, I had to shake loose and untwine all the tubers from the ginger root. Let me just state my appreciation and amazement at this “house plant”. This plant knows how to stake its ground. As I wasn’t putting in an eight hour shift on this job it took me a couple of days to finally get this 3 x 12 foot bed emptied. I was down to clay but I sure felt a great battle had been won. All across my deck lay scarred and wounded soldiers, the ginger plants ready to be replanted and show their pride after winning their battle. I was sure these plants would come back better than ever before with dozens of yellow blossoms infusing my whole backyard with its fragrant kiss. I disposed of the spider plants and gathered the healthiest looking ginger plants and felt excited about giving these plants a fresh start.

Chapter 2 – Compost

So wanting to give these plants a great new start I bought some garden soil in sacks but also wanted to supplement the store bought soil with compost from my own back yard because I was sure it was richer than anything you could get at the store. If you have a compost pile in the backyard you know the joy of dumping vegetable scraps, grass clippings and fallen leaves into a box and see worms turn them into black rich soil. I built my compost box a few years back after trying and discarding one of those black plastic cones. I just built a big box out of wooden pallets, old plywood and cover the pile with a piece of carpet and another piece of plywood. We have a large yard so we have lots of grass clippings and leaves to put in but the biggest contributor to the mix comes from remnants of our organic vegetables we get weekly from Two Small Farms, http://www.twosmallfarms.com/ . You buy a subscription and receive a wonderful box of vegetable, fruits and herbs. Now as these vegetables are right off the farm they include all the tops to the carrots, beets, etc. You will also sometimes receive braising greens or other items that appear more adaptable to the compost pile that the dinner plate, but I have tried to embrace these items and expand my palate. Not always successfully. The one sad part of the service is that fresh organic vegetables need to be enjoyed as quickly as possible and some of the items like lettuce spoil fairly quickly but what this does provide is lots of generous donations to our compost pile. We keep a ceramic container next to the sink and constantly fill it up with veggy scraps. Once I found the left overs from some golden beets and other items so attractive I had to take a picture.


So anyway, I was thrilled to finally get to make good use of our labor of compost love by supplementing the store bought soil with an equal amount of home grown soil. I then replanted the ginger plants I had saved, (I donated a huge bucket of ginger roots the local nursery) and watered them and hoped I would soon have my full bed of ginger back.

Chapter 3 – Volunteer Veggies

So here is an interesting discovery about my compost. Evidently while it is covered and doesn’t receive any sunlight it is quite content to break down and with the help of the local worms and insects become the aromatic soil but retrieved and spread out under the summer sun it will spring back to life. After a few days of watering the replanted ginger bed I noticed all these other plants sprouting. At first I was worried that the evil spider plants were back but it quickly became obvious that wasn’t the case. So instead of pulling out all these sprouts I decided to wait and see what they might be. It seems that various vegetables that have seeds, like tomatoes, squash and melons had decided to try and make a go of it in my newly planted ginger bed. It doesn’t appear like they are doing the ginger plants any harm so we have decided to let them stay and see if we can reap any further reward from our volunteer veggies. I’ll keep you posted.


A Severino’s Beauty

I usually meet a few friends at Severino’s Grill (a great neighborhood watering hole…) most Fridays so we can rehash the week’s worth of world events. It is our little homage to the Algonquin Round Table, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_Round_Table) but with a bit less wit. It is always a fairly quick session, usually lasting between 4:30 and 6:00 o’clock and then we retire to our domiciles. As I was exiting a couple of weeks back I noticed a women standing in the lobby looking like she was waiting for someone. She had such a regal air and posture it stopped me in my tracks. She was standing next to a large brick wall in a pants suit and I just couldn’t resist. “Excuse me, do you think I could take your picture?” I asked. Boy did that create an awkward moment. This lovely women looked at me and then towards the door to see if her husband was coming to her rescue and then to the restaurant hostess, who was definitely not capable of any sort response that might be of comfort for this startled woman. My friend Ken just then came up behind me and as I knew his phone could take a photo I asked, “Ken, wouldn’t this make a beautiful shot?” Ken has been a co-conspirator of mine for long enough that he doesn’t even question my actions anymore. “Um…I guess…” he responded as he took out his phone. I again reassured this lovely women that my intentions were honorable and that I was an artist and just found her image against the background stunning and would love to try and capture it. “Well…perhaps we should ask my husband…” she responded just as her husband walked in to the foyer. “Of course,” I said in my most reassuring voice. I quickly introduced myself to her husband and explained how I was seduced by the sight of his beautiful wife and was hoping to just take a quick picture and would be on our way. At this point I realized my original intent of honest admiration and flattery was quickly evolving into a more than slightly awkward moment for all involved except me. I turned to Ken and made him take a quick shot and thanked the couple again for their patience and grace and exited, leaving them to hopefully enjoy their evening and perhaps even a laugh at my expense. When Ken e-mailed me the photo I was sorry to see it was a bit blurry…but then again, perhaps I was too.

another day in Mikey’s world….

Times are a bit hard financially as I haven’t had a job for quite a while and yet I continue to live the most luxurious existence. (Thank you Amy) I try to curse myself into feeling guilty on a daily basis but by the time I’ve made myself a fresh brewed cup of french-roast coffee and watched Lucca run to the end of my driveway and retrieve my morning paper, drop it at my feet, and I sit at my kitchen table and watch the sun start gliding across my backyard, lighting my lawn and waking all the birds that call this yard home….my guilt dies. So then I spend another day in bliss. It seems so simple. There are always weeds to pull or leaves to rake or sweep. Or maybe I should turn my compost. Or re-stack the old lumber I’ve been saving for some future project. I could do some writing. I could try a new painting. I think the hedge needs trimming. How am I ever to return to the real world when this personal world offers more nourishment and wonder than most could imagine. But perhaps this is one of my points, that perhaps part of my blessings are based on the ability to look for them where they lay. Daily. Look at what you do, and when you do, see something amazing.

I spent today working in my yard. Pulling weeds, mowing the lawn. I made a bouquet, watched the starlings battle with the woodpeckers on the telephone pole and as I felt my body asking permission to stop all this physical foolishness I noticed a beautiful Swallowtail butterfly lighting on the Statis plants in the front yard. I took a breath and watched. When the swallowtail seemed intent on this patch of earth I ran back to my shop and grabbed my camera and tried to get a shot of this beauty.

After I had put all the tools away, taken an outdoor shower under the evening sky, I made a wonderful meal and lit my fire pit on the back porch. As I watched the flames dance and leap to try and touch the evening sky I once again counted, and then counted again. And realized how blessed I am.

My Skeeball Adventure

My latest adventure started as the best adventures do, impulsively. I bought a couple of Skee Ball machines from the Boardwalk. Now it’s fun to recount this adventure as it appears to have worked out well for all concerned but perhaps a bit of history will help to explain. I have long been known as a person who has interests, or finds value in other people’s discarded items. I love flea markets, garage sales, Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. I can always find something I find amusing or interesting and then force my find on my friends and family, who have grown to except these intrusions as harmless fun. What I have really grown to appreciate is how many people want to try and contribute to my habit by submitting items to my collection of detritus and ephemera. “I saw his and thought of you”  Seven simple words that have come to strike fear in the heart of my poor wife Amy. “O.K., tell me again why your friend thought you needed a bag full of broken Barbie’s?”, Amy will ask. Knowing full well I wouldn’t have any rational answer other than…”they’re cool, and I’m sure I can use them somehow…it’s ART!”

So now I have a perfect pretext for my folly and a wife, family and friends acting as enablers. Not to mention, my recent state of unemployment driving me to spend more and more time perusing interesting items. Which leads us to my Skee Ball machines.

I am going to assume most that will read this will not need the introduction but just in case, Skee Ball Machines are a very simple and addictive arcade game, http://www.skeeball.com/about.htm that I first encountered in Capitola, California when I would visit my grandfather, Arch Moen. My Grandfather is an entirely different story that hopefully I can share someday but for this story I will try to stick to Skee Ball. But some background is required. Grandpa Moen had retired from the Heinz Corporation and moved to Capitola to be by a group of his friends that had all retired to this sleepy little California village. They all bought shacks on little lots on the same street with the intent of joining the nearest golf club and pass their golden years with shared meals and golf. The one intrusion to Arch’s plan was his daughter Grace, who was blessed with six children and was either desperate to force us on her father or just trying to lighten her load a few weeks every summer. Anyway, every summer from the time I was about nine or ten my mother and father would ship two of us off to Capitola. They would only send two at a time as that was all the little guest room tacked onto the back of the carport had room for. So in the late 60′s either my brother Tony or my sister Kathy and I would take Pan Am flight 838 from Honolulu to San Francisco to spend a couple of weeks with Gramdpa Moen. This always felt a bit like a Mexican stand off. It didn’t seem like our Grandfather was particularly pleased to have us there intruding on his life of leasure and having left our friends on the beaches of Kailua, we certainly were confused on what the benefit was to us as well. Here is where we found our salvation. Skee Ball. After our annual day and night of awkward “how are you’s” and ” so…how old are you now’s”… our Grandfather would basicslly release us into the wild. Gone by 8:00am, back by 6:00pm those were his rules. No questions asked. I finally had the epiphany…we were absolutely free for 10 hours a day. No rules, no parents, nothing but free range access to all things enticing. And  the most enticing thing in my mind was the arcades at the esplanade. Back then the Capitola esplanade was not much more than a row of  beach front arcades trying to compete with the Boardwalk for nickles and dimes. There weren’t any rides except for the Merry-Go-Round at the end of the strip. All there was in Capitola at the time was a Theater at one end, a bowling alley in the middle and four or five dark noisy arcades facing the water that smelled of mechanic’s oil used to keep all these machines humming and blinking and rolling and spitting out little yellow tickets. Those little yellow tickets, the fools gold of the arcade. And of course the prize cases. Large glass cases holding what seemed like Solomon’s treasure to a 12 year old. Everything from your basic Chinese finger handcuff to life sized stuffed animals and real radios and cameras. I think I spent as much time pressed up against the glass cases as I did actually playing any of the games. Planning how long and how many games I would need to acquire enough tickets to actually get anything other that a spider ring or an cricket clicker. ( I ended up with quite a collection of those two items.)

So the other morning I happened to look on Craig’s List under the collectible section and what should I see but two Skee Ball machines being sold. Not only that but they are being sold right out of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk arcade. I can’t believe it. They have even posted pictures. I think my heart may have skipped a beat. I can’t believe the price. I can’t believe the Boardwalk would actually sell them in this way. The posting says the buyer has to take both machines and they have to be gone by Thursday. This posting is on Wednesday morning. I immediately went to see my sister Kathy and asked her to call her husband Larry. Larry has worked at the Boardwalk for over 10 years and could find out quickly if this was on the up and up. Kathy called and Larry confirmed the deal was real. Not only that but let the contact person know that I was interested and would be calling. Now I was really excited. I might have an edge on what I assumed would be a bidding frenzy on these gems. My son’s Aubrey and Ian happen to be home when I called and left a message for my contact at the Boardwalk. When I explained what I was considering, buying two Skee Ball machines from the Boardwalk there response was adamant. “Dad, you have to.” No hesitation, no concerns. When I mentioned I hadn’t run it by Amy yet they assured me she would understand. I also sent out a few e-mails to a few confidants to bolster my position and all the responses basically stated it was imperative that I make every effort to obtain these Skee Ball machines. And so I did. When Brian called me back and asked if I was willing to buy both units and pick them up by tomorrow I just stated, “Yes.” I was desperate to win this treasure no matter how many yellow tickets this was going to cost me.  So here is one of my scary moments of this adventure. There was a pause in my phone conversation between him confirming the price and who my brother-in-law was when I had to quickly catch my breath. I had just agreed to buy two full size, 10 feet long 400 pound Skee Ball machines….”as is”. There was no backing out now, the die had been cast. I immediately called my friend Brooks to ask for his help in transporting them to my house. My plan was to temporarily put them in the garage until I could make room for one of them out in my studio and then hopefully quickly sell the other. I mean, how hard could it be to sell a Skee Ball machine, everybody loves Skee Ball. I also needed to let Amy know what I had done and that she would have to park in the driveway for a few days. I have to admit, that last part might have struck fear into the hearts of many men but I am blessed with the greatest wife, whose response on the phone seemed to have the same tone of concern as if I had called to tell her I was going to try out a new recipe for dinner. “O.K. hon, if you’re sure. I will see them when you get them home I guess.”

So the next day I meet Brooks and his son Chase at the Boardwalk to do the deal. The large bay doors were open and we saw the two Skee Ball machines parked right inside the doors. My first reaction was panic. They are not only bigger and heavier than I imagined but they are also pretty battered and bruised from being on the front lines at the arcade for who knows how many years. Brooks is finding my obvious apprehension very amusing but does his best to offer words of encouragement. “Wow, these are huge!” “Are you sure Amy is o.k. with this?” “Where are you going to put them again?” I was starting to really question this decision. I don’t think buyer’s remorse had ever set in quicker. After a few minutes of milling around we asked an employee to radio the office and let them know I was here to pick up my Skee Ball machines. A couple minutes later a gentleman arrived to complete the deal. As we were loading one onto my truck and the other on Chase’s truck two female employees approached and stood there watching. At first I thought they were just finding amusement in our escapade but it turned out they were delivering the wooden balls for the games and the bolts to fasten the legs back on and were part of the maintenance crew with first hand knowledge of the inner workings of the machines. Great, I thought, they can explain what problems they currently have and how to get them to work when I get them home. The answer to my question as to whether the machines really work was, “for the most part…” and all other queries asked received the same response of, “you’ll figure it out.” My confidence about my purchase was definitely not soaring at this point. Burrowing. Can burrowing be a term to indicate my level of confidence level at that moment? But yet I stood fast, concluded the transaction and directed Chase and Brooks to head back to the house and unload the fun. How I would have loved to hear a recording of the conversation between those employees after we had left.

Brooks and Chase made it back to my place a couple minutes ahead of me. When I drove up I saw my son Ian talking with them. Great, we definitely need a fourth to unload. After a couple of minutes to discuss unloading options we basically decided to put Ian and Chase on the heavy ends and shove them into the garage. A bit of umph and a few grunts from my end and I was standing in front of my garage looking at the back end of two machines taking up the entire area my wife usually parks her car. Once again, my emotions felt like they were on another ride at the Boardwalk, the roller-coaster. Seeing the Skee Ball machines surrounded by all the other items in my garage, a drum set, amplifiers, beach gear, old books and posters, various dolls and doll parts, a theater spotlight, fishing gear, card tables and chairs, camping gear and paint and tools, they looked so right. Then I remembered I hadn’t even tried them yet to see if they even work and the euphoria evaporated and panic set in. Brooks and Chase had to run so I thanked them again and promised to invite them to the first Inaugural tournament held. I guess I must have been standing there looking a bit dazed so my son Ian said, “well let’s at least plug one in and see if it works.” Ian grabbed an extension cord, plugged one in. Again excitement. A fan immediately started to whirl and the lights on the back board lit up and the machine started loudly playing a classic sounding carnival tune like a Calliope would make. At this point, seeing the response from my son I knew I could rest assured I had made the right decision to buy the machines. The price I had paid had already reaped  a reward you can’t put a price on. Admiration from your children. “well, let’s put the legs on and try it out.” Ian said confidently.  Of course this also proved to be a much bigger endevor than the young lady from the Boardwalk had implied. Luckily another friend, Bill showed up to see my new purchase and with his help we managed to get the legs on to raise up the back end so we could actually give it a roll.

The moment of truth my friends. The machine is set, we plug her in, she whirls and flashes her lights at us and pipes out her merry little tune, “do-doot-do-doot do-do-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doot-do-do”, I pick up the worn, smooth, hardwood ball and make my first pitch down the lane. Straight down the middle, up the ramp and right into the 50 point ring! (I have a witness.) This was so cool. I was just giddy. I didn’t care that I hadn’t figured out what to do with the other machine or whether I could actually fit this one in my shop or even how the heck I was going to get it in there. Right now I was playing Skee Ball in my garage with my son and my buddy. Ian immediately started devising plans for incorporating Skee Ball into the BBQ he was planning for his 21st birthday.

The really wonderful part of this story, for me was the universal appeal these machines seemed to hold for people of all ages. My youngest son Colin came home and actually did a little jig when he saw them, got on the phone and notified a few friends to come right over to play. Amy came home from work and went right out to bowl a couple of games with me. Every person I told seemed genuinely happy with what I had done.

But now for the epilog to this wonderful tale. I started the next day trying to figure out what to do with the second machine. I posted on Craig’s list, I mentioned to various friends and on Facebook and was amazed at the quick responses. My first reaction was relief that it looked like I would have no problem selling my extra Skee Ball machine and was second thought was, “dang, I should have asked more for it.” But just as quickly I took comfort in the thought that I wasn’t going to lose any money on this deal and someone else will be getting as much excitement as I am from having their very own Skee Ball. I also stopped in to see a friend Dennis, who has a jewelry store in the Antique Fair in Aptos. I asked him to mention it to some of the vendors he knows that I was selling a Skee Ball machine cheap. I was home for about 10 minutes when Dennis called and said he had a potential buyer. I thanked him for the quick work and agreed that the two drink minimum finders fee would indeed apply. At the buyers request I e-mail a few pictures and he immediately called me up asking to come over to see them. He was there that afternoon and after a quick review forked over the cash and said he would work on picking it up in a few days. Now I was really able to enjoy my Skee Ball machine because I no longer had to worry about what to do with the spare. But as they always say, all good things must come to an end, and after a couple more days of sharing my treasure with family and friends I came to the conclusion that there was no way I was going to fit it in my shop and I certainly couldn’t keep it in the garage much longer and I needed to sell the second machine. I contacted one of the Craig’s List responses and accepted an offer she had made, which was half what I listed it for but figured it’s better Karma to make a little and pass along the fun. Before I heard back from this other buyer I got a call from Clayton, the gentleman who had bought the other machine and when I said I was going to sell the other as well he couldn’t believe it. He pleaded with me if I wasn’t going to keep one for myself to please sell him both. As I knew he was planning on giving one of the machines to his 8 year old granddaughter I already had a good feeling about him and seeing as how he had already seen both machines and was well aware of the condition they were in I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about him being disappointed when he came to pick them up. I relented and told Clayton he could have both. He was so excited he called the next day and asked if he could bring his wife by to see them. It was his birthday. I’m not sure what year he was celebrating but I know he said that he had all sorts of places to go and people to see. And yet, first he wanted to bring his wife by to see the Skee Ball machines. I knew I had made the right choice, I had had my glory and a weeks worth of fun, a great story to tell and couldn’t have been happier with who was going to provide them a more permanent home.

So thanks to all my friends and family who assisted me with this adventure. Now on to the next!


Another day to remember

As often as I may curse some perceived affront by a car on the highway or an ill behaved grownup, I do also try to realize where my blessings lie. At home with my family. Wonderful meals with friends. And in the absolute beauty of where I get to live. One of the habits I try to maintain is to view the ocean on a daily basis. It is my form of Ritalin. It calms me and makes me remember. So this afternoon I drove down Beach Drive at a severe low tide. These really low tides are one of my favorites as it shows so much of the bay that we can’t imagine. The shape of the shoreline twenty or thirty yards out and why the waves break that way there. The deposits of flotsam that usually sways on the bottom of the bay,  sharing bits of history from as far away as a mountain top or as deep as history can dig.

So as I drove down this beach front road I noticed a lone figure off shore. The low tide had receded to -0.19 feet and the beach was busy with walkers and joggers. And of course dogs in all states of euphoria based on the amount of smells and detritus scattered on the shore. But this lone figure captured my eye as he stood in waders with a fishing pole off shore. In full fishing regalia he stood, from the floppy hat to the khaki knapsack. Knee deep against a background of silver and gray light. I pulled over and watched. I could tell that he was on a high spit of sand next to a trough burrowed by the strong current that every surfer of this area knows so well. The swell had been big recently and at high tide a boon to the local surfers but at this tide the water looked like cabbage chopped for Chinese stir fry. I could not resist trying to capture this scene so I shut off the car, grabbed my camera and headed out to the shoreline. I am not a professional and regret it as I’m sure I missed some great shots but this is what I did come away with. A few to capture the mood and the memory of speaking to the fisherman as he waded ashore  and then walked away.

“any luck?” I asked.

“I caught one great one. Right when the tide was going out, about an hour ago. I caught one that was about 16 inches. Oh, it was great. I had to let it go but it was a great catch A real tugger. I think the females lay their eggs in the shallows when the tide is right so I had to put her back”

He walked off down the beach with just his pole pointing south. No intention of keeping any catch.

What a joy to live here.

Scornful Dismissal

Scornful Dismissal…

That is a very literal diss. This is old school. Take a look at this image from 1904 and if you are a married man tell me you don’t know this look and phrase being presented.

This image can be captioned by every married man since Adam…


The latest Lucca pics

My son’s girlfriend Kendra took these shots with her cell phone, I thought they were very interesting,



An untitled poem

It was sudden.

and seemed harsh for a simple rain.

The sound startled me when it started.

Startled me when it hit my roof.

Startled me.

So when I went to the door and looked,

and it was just rain, but rain that fell with a voice

that stated its presence I thought,

Bless the rain,

bless the rain,

bless the absence of my pain.